I am constantly amazed about the quality and impact of the work carried out by our members around Europe. This week the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh was awarded Scottish Social Enterprise of the Year which is just amazing. Founded as part of a partnership with the Church of Scotland the project has become a beacon for how social enterprises can work with the most disadvantaged in our societies, providing access to work, skills training and perhaps most importantly, confidence and empowerment to take control of their own lives. Also in Berlin, Diakonie Deutschland has been involved with a collaborative project with Caritas Berlin to support homeless people this winter. The ‘Frost Guardian Angel’ project specifically targets homeless people from an Eastern European background who have perhaps travelled to Berlin in the hope of finding work but who have fallen into destitution. Using funds from the European Union FEAD programme counsellors provide support and advice as to how to access social health support, leading to more inclusion into society and an end to the homelessness they have experienced. The project talks about ‘bringing people in from the social cold’ – not just the cold streets – but the often cold society that can reject and see those in extreme destitution as having no worth. Both the Grassmarket and the Berlin project do just the opposite – providing a society of warmth and welcome where people are accepted as they are and not rejected for what they are not.
It is such work of our members that enable us to speak out at a European level for structural and systemic change. This week I spoke at an EU conference on the Labour Market Integration of Refugees and was able to call on the experience of our members in this area particularly about how access to work is not enough – accompanying social service, language training, cultural support and coaching and mentoring are equally important and that is often where civil society organisations are stronger than public employment services. Clotilde from our team was in Strasbourg earlier in the week discussing the key roles that faith based organisations play in supporting and recognising migrants and refugees and supporting their integration, building again on the extensive ecumenical and inter-faith work happening among our membership. Later in the week she spoke in the European Parliament about how people experience extreme destitution and needing the supporting of food banks have a right to quality food including fresh food, bringing our members experience of food banks and social restaurants to the heart of the EU. My colleague Florian has been working with other NGO’s and officials as to how to make EU funding programmes more impactful in the fight against poverty and social exclusion, bringing our members frustrations with EU funding – and successes – into the discussions about future programmes.
This is only some of what we have done this past week but it all happens because our members work to beat the social cold and create social warmth. As we start to experience a cold winter physically, let’s be encouraged to build social warmth and continue to bring that warmth – through advocacy, through praxis and through our identity, to achieve a Europe that is hospitable to all and that values each and every one of us.
Have a good weekend